When the game was on the line, the Benton Tigers came up big Friday night and the result was a 20-12 victory over the Sterlington Panthers in the season opener at Benton.
Perhaps the biggest play was Jordan White’s interception return for a touchown with 2:13 left in the game. White’s TD and PAT gave the Tigers a 20-12 lead.
Benton quarterback Christian Smith tossed two touchdown passes in his debut as starter. His first, a 30-yarder to TJ Anderson, tied the score at 6 in the first half.
The second, a 15-yarder to Clayton Festavan, gave Benton a 13-6 lead with 4:39 left in the game.
Sterlington answered right back with a long run for a touchdown. But Benton stopped a try for two and still led 13-12. Cody Ratliff sealed the deal with an interception that was tipped by teammate Xavier Washington.
Benton avenged a 34-31 loss to Sterlington in last year’s season opener, which was Reynolds Moore’s first game as head coach.
“I feel a lot better now than I did this time last year,” Moore said late Friday night. “I told them we played a good football team. You weren’t in a dogfight with a nobody.”
A couple of Benton players got cramps, but Moore was pleased with the way his team was able to come through late in the game.
“We felt we got stronger as the game went along,” he said.
Moore also said he thought not being able to play in last week’s jamboree hurt the Tigers some.
“There were some mistakes we made tonight that could’ve been avoided if we would have had the jamboree, so I feel at this point we’re fortunate to get out of here with a win,” he said. “We’ve got some mistakes to correct in game situations and we’ve got a tough test next week against Haughton. Hopefully we can get them corrected before then.”
Benton had over 300 yards of total offense. Smith completed 18 of 30 passes for 218 yards and the two TDs. Of the incompletions, Moore said probably about half were drops.
“I’m proud of Christian,” Moore said. “He didn’t make any bad decisions and made some plays with his legs. That was exciting for us to see and a good foundation for him to lay down and continue to grow on.”
— Russell Hedges, firstname.lastname@example.org